The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts: Volume 1


PALMER, Dan R. (1817-1897) and Abigail (1823-1902)

Born in Sodus, New York, Dan Palmer moved to Jackson, Michigan, in 1838. Dan Palmer, and probably his wife, Abigail (née Wilmoth), came from a Millerite background and, together with other Adventists in Jackson, became Sabbatarians through their contact with Joseph Bates on his first visit to Jackson in 1849. Historical sources disagree on whether the Palmers were Bates's first converts, prior to the rest of the Jackson Adventists. Having arrived in Jackson “with only $30 in his pocket,” Dan Palmer built up a flourishing blacksmithing business. 1EGWLM 875.1

Dan and Abigail are remembered for giving generously to almost every church project for which appeal was made, including the purchase of the first evangelistic tent in 1854, the construction of a building to house the Review office in 1855, large donations for the Western Health Reform Institute, the mission to Europe, and the James White Memorial home in 1891. Dan's financial acumen was also put to use. He served on a financial committee of three who were charged with moving the Review office to Battle Creek, as well as on the Michigan tent committee, the board of directors of the Health Reform Institute, and several other assignments. 1EGWLM 875.2

When visiting Jackson, James and Ellen White often stayed with the Palmers. Although they were firm supporters of Ellen White and her visions, an incident in 1853 involving Abigail Palmer's hasty temperament led to very serious consequences. Mrs. Palmer was accused by some fellow believers of insulting a neighbor by calling her a “bitch,” and they demanded that church discipline be applied. Mrs. Palmer vigorously denied the charges, and the Jackson group became bitterly divided between her accusers and defenders. During this state of affairs Ellen White received a vision reproving Abigail Palmer's unchristian spirit but revealing that she had not, in fact, used the offensive term, and reprimanding those who had harshly condemned her. Rather than settling the matter, some of those reproved in Jackson, nearby Sylvan, and beyond now turned against the authority of the visions themselves, ultimately resulting in the first offshoot movement from the Sabbatarian Adventists, the Messenger Party. 1EGWLM 875.3

See: Horace Wilbur Palmer, Palmer Families in America: Lt. William Palmer of Yarmouth, Mass. and His Descendants of Greenwich, Conn. (Neshanic, N.J.: Neshanic Printing Co., 1966), vol. 1, p. 816; obituary: “Dan R. Palmer,” Review, Jan. 26, 1897, p. 64; obituary: “Mrs. D. R. Palmer,” Review, Dec. 23, 1902, p. 23; History of Jackson County, Michigan (Chicago: Inter-State Pub. Co., 1881), p. 686; search term “D. R. Palmer” in Review and Herald online collection,; Arthur Whitefield Spalding, Footprints of the Pioneers (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1947), pp. 139-146; G. W. Amadon, “Interesting Item of History,” Review, Nov. 11, 1890, p. 695; SDAE, s.v. “Michigan Conference.” 1EGWLM 875.4